ATLANTA (Reuters) - Television evidence has played an increasingly significant role in deciding rules violations on the PGA Tour and Tiger Woods, the most scrutinized player of his era, believes further discussions are needed over its use.
In what has been a curious 2013 campaign for Woods, the American world number one has been given two-shot penalties for infringements on three occasions, most recently at last week’s BMW Championship in Chicago.
That infraction stood out among the three because it was the only time he was unhappy with the decision even after watching video footage of the incident, and Woods was again asked about the topic on the eve of the Tour Championship on Wednesday.
“With HDTV (High Definition TV), I think that’s been a huge transition,” 14-times major champion Woods told reporters while preparing for Thursday’s opening round in the season-ending event at East Lake Golf Club.
“There are certainly a lot more viewer call-ins, and what people don’t realize is that our rules staff gets quite a few calls every week. A lot of them never see the light of day, but they’re handled with the players.
“It’s a new age in which there are a lot of cameras ... around my group and then some of the top players. I get it from the first time I step on the range on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, all the way through.”
Woods, arguably the greatest player ever, accepts he gets more television coverage than his peers and was happy to hear commissioner Tim Finchem say earlier this week that the PGA Tour might consider not taking calls from viewers over potential penalties.
“Most players don’t get it (television coverage) until they’re on the leader groups on Saturday or Sunday,” said Woods.
“I think the commissioner was right. We’re going to have to have more discussions about it in the future. I think that’s actually happening right now.”
On Tuesday, Finchem told reporters at East Lake: “We’ve been talking about it (not taking calls from viewers) and looking at it over the years. I think twice we’ve actually got pretty serious about it.
“It’s not just one thing. It’s sort of three or four different ways to look at it starting with one fundamental, is disqualification reasonable for signing a card wrong when you didn’t intentionally do anything?
“Going from there to what’s a reasonable point to accept outside information? Is it better to have some sort of limit on it? All the other sports close their books a little quicker than we do, so to speak.”
Woods liked the idea of a time limit.
“There needs to be a discussion of where is that time limit? Where is that line demarcation? You’ve got to start with disqualification first and then work our way back from there,” he said.
“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of discussion over it. Over the course of time, is every player going to be mandated to have a camera follow them around everywhere they go, all 156 players for every shot?
“The digital age, is it going to change? It’s growing a lot certainly the next 10 to 20 years. What is it going to be like? These are all questions and answers that need to be resolved in the near future.”
Woods’ infraction at last week’s BMW Championship occurred on the par-four first at Conway Farms where he struck his second shot over the back of the green under trees, then tried to remove a twig from his ball before playing his third.
Though he felt his ball had only oscillated before he ran up a double-bogey six there, video footage showed that it had slightly shifted its position and his score was amended to a quadruple-bogey eight.
While many critics have expressed surprise that Woods could have been unaware of his ball’s movement at the time, some have pointed out that it may not have been that obvious from his angle, looking down.
Either way, it only came to light through high-definition picture images with the incident having been filmed by a videographer working for PGA Tour Entertainment.
Woods’ first infraction of the year came in his opening event of the season, at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship, where he missed the cut after taking a free drop from an imbedded lie in a sandy area under a desert bush.
The regulations, however, only allow for a free drop in such circumstances if the ball has finished anywhere but in sand and Woods was therefore handed his penalty at the end of the round.
He also fell foul of rules officials at the Masters after taking an illegal drop during the second round when his wedge approach at the 15th struck the flagstick before ricocheting backwards off the green and down the slope into Rae’s Creek.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue